NASA Contracts Colorado’s Drone Traffic Technology To Help Pilots

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A Colorado start-up is hoping to revolutionize how drones are detected in the air while keeping pilots and passengers safe. Drone Traffic recently won a NASA contract to develop the technology and has been contacted by the FAA to help out around wildfires.

(credit: CBS)

“We’ve already got 100 incidents per month that the FAA has documented where drones are operating where they should not be,” said Drone Traffic CEO and Founder Rick Zelenka. “Several of those incidents are actually collisions between a drone and a small aircraft.”

The idea started when Zelenka returned to flying after a hiatus. He took years off when drone technology started to erupt.


(credit: CBS)

“I was worried about flying the aircraft and what might be out there. I started thinking how would I get to know of warnings of drones that are operating where they shouldn’t be operating,” he said.

The idea is to have a small radar attach to aircraft. Then inside the cockpit, pilots can get an alert when a drone is in the area. The technology goes a step farther and inform other pilots in the area.


(credit: CBS)

“We’re bringing together these different pieces in a unique way. Let’s crowdsource information so that all pilots know who are interested about a hazardous drone that might be in their flight path,” Zelenka said. “A pilot like me is going to need that information in real time to say, ‘Hey there’s a drone out there, it’s hazardous, watch out for it. Do something different.’”

NASA has a long history helping technology incorporate into air traffic control. Drone Traffic’s grant will help bring software and hardware together to make his patent a reality. He’s meeting with more government officials in the coming weeks to see if it can help other pilots.


(credit: CBS)

“The FAA contacted me with, ‘Hey can we apply your system to help us out with this. So we can identify these drones and help our guys flying the firefighter aircraft to avoid these drones.”

Currently planes are grounded around wildfires when a drone is in the area. This technology could keep firefighters working and safe.

“I want as much safety improvements as I can have,” Zelenka said.

LINK: Drone Traffic

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